Morinville Council candidate profile: Jim O’Brien

By Stephen Dafoe

Morinville – Retired soldier Jim O’Brien joined the Canadian Army in 1963 and retired after 37 years of service. He was the third Morinville resident to enter the race to replace Councillor Ben Van de Walle in the upcoming bi-election Sept. 20.

O’Brien and his wife have lived in Morinville since 1997 when his wife was initially posted here from Winnipeg.

The retiree has been active in municipal matters from a concerned citizen standpoint and said he felt it was time to get involved.

“I’ve been bitching, moaning and complaining about a number of issues over particularly the last couple of years,” the candidate said. “I figured the time has come for me to put my money where my mouth is, and really [it is] a learning process as much as anything else. This particular one-year term would enable me to do that.”

O’Brien said as councillor he would advocate for more openness and transparency from council and administration. “Citizens of Morinville don’t get enough from Council, from administration, especially on questions that they ask,” he said. “Attendance at Council meetings by the general public is … abysmal. Attendance at open sessions such as the Traffic and Safety one we had a few weeks ago is not as good as it could be. There’s understandable reason for that. Most of the people who live here in Morinville are more worried about putting bread on the table than they are about one thing or another here in the town.”

The candidate said he sees spending as the biggest issue confronting the community, “I think in some respects this community is spending too much money,” he said. “The hiring of so many additional staff members for the administration is a bit much. I’m a little concerned because it costs a lot of money. Does a town this size need a large administration staff?”

O’Brien, who has previously referred to town spending as in keeping with the spending habits of drunken sailors, said he sees the money spent on enforcement services as an example of overspending. “We have two peace officers who have a couple of tricked out vehicles that are very, very expensive,” O’Brien said. “Sturgeon County has cars. Why do we need two off-road vehicles at an estimated cost of about $80,000 each?” He said he sees an ATV on the horizon for the department, given the recent loan of one by Sturgeon County.

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The candidate is perhaps best known for his public opposition to how the community’s photo radar program is run. He is quick to point out he is not opposed to photo radar, in fact he thinks there should be more of it.

“I figure anyone that’s crazy enough to go through photo radar zones that are clearly marked on Town of Morinville’s maps, and they consistently get caught, they deserve everything they get,” he said. “What we were really after is answers to questions. We didn’t get those answers. The answers are still outstanding.”

O’Brien said he feels his life experience is the strongest asset he brings to his campaign to be Morinville’s next councillor. “I’m a retired soldier,” he said. “I have a lot of spare time on my hands and I think I can put it to good use working for the community.”

This election is his first run at public office. He has served on a number of committees during his time in the military.

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